Plaintiff estopped from denying liability for attorneys’ fees

The Plaintiff in this Homeowner’s Association case lived and owned a home within a multi-association community.  His neighborhood was governed by a Homeowners Association and the collection of neighborhoods in his community, each consisting of an individual Homeowners Association, were collectively governed by a Master Association. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the Master Association had failed to comply with certain provisions of Chapter 720, Florida Statutes.

more Chicago suburbs from the air
Scorpions and Centaurs / Travel Photos / CC BY-NC-SA

After a hearing, the trial court entered final summary judgment in favor of the Master Association. The Master Association thereafter moved for and was awarded prevailing-party attorney’s fees pursuant to section 720.305(1), Florida Statutes.

Plaintiff argued on appeal that he was not liable for attorneys’ fees because he was not actually a member of the Master Association, and, therefore, the applicable fee shifting language within section 720.305(1) did not apply.

The 5th DCA found, as a matter of statutory interpretation, that he was a member, but, more interestingly, also found that Plaintiff was “estopped from denying liability” for attorneys’ fees.

By filing suit, Plaintiff “held himself out to be a member of the Master Association with standing to sue under section 720.305(1).”  The Plaintiff could not claim he was a member with standing to file suit, then deny that he was a member in an attempt to avoid fee liability.

ROSENBERG v.  METROWEST MASTER ASS’N, INC., et al., 38 Fla. L. Weekly D1476a, (Case No. 5D12-4062 July 5, 2013).